KOTA KINABALU: A severely injured bull elephant that was believed to have been hit by a vehicle in an accident a few months ago was euthanised on Tuesday (June 11) after rescuers failed to nurse it back to health.
The eight-year-old elephant, which was rescued from a plantation in Tawau on March 21, sustained multiple injuries including to its head and jaw.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the decision was made after veterinarians attending to it hit a dead end trying to cure the elephant over the past three months.
"We cannot prolong its suffering any longer, the best decision is to put it to sleep," she said in a statement here Wednesday (June 12).
"It was put to sleep humanely based on ethical and animal welfare factors," she said, adding that the procedure was conducted by a Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) veterinary team.
Liew said the elephant, which was affectionately named Toothie due to its condition when it was rescued, was found with an abscess in its lower jaw and was unable to close its mouth.
She said a team of vets from the WRU and SWD took the elephant to the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary in Kinabatangan for dental treatment and provided it with a modified diet as it was not able to eat.
"On April 10, a more thorough dental examination and X-ray was conducted, where medical experts discovered there was a complete fracture of the elephant's lower jaw," she said.
It is learnt that corrective surgery was not done as the medical team felt that the injury was too serious and there was a slim chance of success.
"Toothie was nursed in captivity for three months hoping for an improvement in its condition," Liew said.
"Unfortunately, it did not improve and the fracture developed into a mal-union of the jaw, causing a permanent deformity that the animal could only cope with assisted feeding," she said.
She said releasing Toothie back to the wild was rejected as it would not be able to feed and care for itself.
"Instead, releasing it would contribute to a slow painful death," she said.
Liew said nursing this elephant in captivity for the past three months had cost the Wildlife Department RM30,000 for medical care and special diet formulation.
She said the cause of the fracture is still being investigated but it is suspected to have been caused by a massive blunt force trauma, probably from a heavy vehicle.